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PWR BTTM survivor discusses assault, openers drop off tour, shows cancelled

PWR BTTM at Knitting Factory
photo by Amanda Hatfield

UPDATE: PWR BTTM’s label Polyvinyl released a statement.

PWR BTTM cancelled their Brooklyn record release show scheduled for today (5/12) after accusations of “sexual abuse, predatory behavior, and anti-semitism” were made against Ben Hopkins. Touring PWR BTTM member Cameron West also made a statement that revealed he has quit the band. Touring member Nicholas Cummins has also left the band, tweeting:

I’ll say what I told Ben; while I will never dispose of them as a human, I fully believe all accusations that came up today. Regardless of their intent it’s clear that multiple people had their boundaries crossed. that’s incredibly unacceptable and needs to be acknowledged… I am deeply horrified by the thought of any role I may have played in doing harm to those people when playing with that band. All I can do is hope that the band does the right thing and pursues accountability in an honest and transparent way.

Now opening acts for PWR BTTM’s upcoming shows are cancelling too.

Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, one of the scheduled openers, posted a statement via facebook:

Hey y’all. I’ll no longer be opening up for PWR BTTM on this upcoming tour. It Fucking sucks for everyone involved and in light of the allegations I can’t comfortably continue. I hope that truth is found/admitted and I’m incredibly disappointed at this type of shit continuously happening. I love all of you.

T-Rextasy, who were due to join the tour in July, wrote a series of tweets explaining why they are cancelling:

PWR BTTM were due to play Bled Fest on May 27. The festival has issued a statement cancelling their set:

Two days ago, our team was made aware of allegations of sexual assault by a member of the band PWR BTTM that were making their way around the internet. We appreciate everyone who respectfully made us aware of these allegations. After taking the needed time to discuss the situation with folks that we have a great working relationship with, we’ve made the decision to remove PWR BTTM from this year’s lineup. We do not have any tolerance for this kind of activity, and it’s important that we act in favor of any victims, whether we know them directly or not.

One of the things that we’ve always taken pride in, but doubled down on this year, is creating a safe space for fans of all ages and walks of life, where they could enjoy themselves regardless of who they are. We don’t love the term “safe space” (just like we dislike the word “scene”), because it implies the opposite of some of the elements of danger and excitement that drew us to punk rock in the first place. However, we try very hard to make our little festival a safe place for folks of all walks of life. All races, genders, religions, sexes, preferences, and ages are welcome here. And importantly, in this case, all past victims of abuse of any type are welcome here, and are meant to feel comfortable inside our venue. We cannot control what happens in the world, but we can control who we feature on our stages, and the allegations against PWR BTTM are such that we cannot maintain that promise and allow them to remain on our stage.

One of the new features of BLED FEST in 2017 that we announced last week is our Community Room, where we’ll host 4 discussion panels. One of which, entitled “Safe Spaces, Not Boring Spaces”, will tackle this exact issue in depth. We’d love to hear your voice and what you have to say. We’ll announce the panelists next week.

Finally, we are going to actively try to fill the spot vacated by PWR BTTM’s removal, but it’s late in the game, and we can’t promise to have anything booked on such short notice. If we don’t, we’ll just move set times around (those announce May 16). We’re working to have news for you soon regarding the acts that were supporting PWR BTTM’s tour (Tancred and Nnamdi Ogbonnaya). We want them to know that they’re still welcome here, and that we were excited for their performances on the festival, independent of their involvement in any tour. We’re fans of both, and hope to have good news about them soon!

Chicago venue Subterranean revealed that they are currently offering refunds for the PWR BTTM show at their venue on May 30. Stay tuned for more updates.

Tancred also released a statement via facebook dropping out of her upcoming tour dates with PWR BTTM:

Due to the allegations that have come to light over the past few days I will be removing myself from the upcoming PWR BTTM tour dates. Siding with any and all survivors is and should always be a priority.

Hopscotch Fest issued a statement of their own via facebook removing PWR BTTM from the lineup:

Each year, as we book and program artists, we do so with the intent on making Hopscotch Music Festival an inclusive, positive, and safe space for all members of our community. This week’s allegations against Ben Hopkins of PWR BTTM are ones that we do not take lightly. It is absolutely necessary to believe and support survivors of abuse, and to take steps toward holding abusers accountable. For these reasons, we have removed the band from our 2017 lineup.

We will be in contact with local LGBTQ+ and social justice organizations to address how to best raise awareness and funds for marginalized communities here in North Carolina. It is the primary goal of the festival organizers to ensure that everyone feels safe and free to be themselves.

AV Club points out that PWR BTTM’s label Polyvinyl is offering refunds for pre-orders of PWR BTTM’s new album if you email mailorder@polyvinylrecords.com. According to Jezebel, Polyvinyl is preparing a statement.

Ratboys, who were also scheduled to play shows with PWR BTTM, also cancelled and made a statement via facebook:

In light of recent allegations that Ben from PWR BTTM has a history of making unwanted sexual advances at shows, we will choose not to support the band on the final three shows of their upcoming tour as planned. We will always stand by survivors of abuse, and we have no tolerance for abusive or cruel behavior.

When we first saw tweets accusing Ben of sexual assault, we were shocked. Shocked and confused. We, like so many, hoped that PWR BTTM’s resounding message of inclusion and respect represented a foundation for how the band members themselves behave in their personal lives. It now appears that our trust in the band was misplaced.

My heart is breaking for everyone who has been hurt and for the community of folks – namely kids in the queer community – who found a safe home in PWR BTTM’s music. I’m very much still processing this, and all of us are trying to figure out what we can take away from this.

Right now our main takeaway is this: we need to support survivors by listening to their stories. We need to validate their experiences and their pain. We need to respect others and be good to one another. We need to support survivors in the community. We need to listen.

Thank you for reading this message – we’re working to plan some shows out in Salt Lake City and Denver for some time later this year. As for Cleveland, we’ll be at Mahall’s on 5/28 with Pet Symmetry, and we’d absolutely love to see you.

Jezebel also interviewed a survivor (who chose to remain anonymous), who had this to say about being assaulted by Ben Hopkins:

In an interview with Jezebel, a person we’ll call Jen* who wishes to remain anonymous described being assaulted while intoxicated by Hopkins after a PWR BTTM show last year. Jen said she initially thought they seemed “like an okay person… because of what they preach,” referring to the band’s vocal interest in social justice. After Hopkins took Jen home they allegedly made sexually aggressive advances and started having sex with her without permission while also refusing to wear protection. Later, while she was asleep, Jen said she woke up to Hopkins trying to have sex with her again.

“I just felt totally powerless in the situation, first due to physicality because they are so much bigger than me in size and also social status,” she told Jezebel. “I was trying to be okay with whatever was going on.”

Hopkins continued to send Jen nude photos after the assault. Jen said she didn’t initially process her experience with Hopkins as rape after being assaulted in high-school. “In high school I was blamed, told it was my fault, shouldn’t have gone to this place,” she told Jezebel. “I have a lot of that internalized, unfortunately.” A month later, she said, Hopkins assaulted her again. After talking about the experience with a few musicians and friends, Jen said she realized she was assaulted and, like Coredo-Kolin, gradually began to hear more stories about Hopkins’s predatory behavior.

Salty Artist Management, who managed PWR BTTM, have dropped them. They write:

In light of the allegations involving members of PWR BTTM, Salty Artist Management will no longer be working with the band. We do not take these kind of allegations lightly and our thoughts are with victims and survivors of abuse who have been affected by this.

If you need someone to talk to, these organizations can provide information and support:

National Sexual Assault Hotline – (800) 656-4673
The Trevor Project – (866) 488-7386
LGBT National Help Center – (888) 843-4564
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs – (212) 714-1141

PWR BTTM’s June 8 show at Gasa Gasa has now also been cancelled:

While Polyvinyl, who released PWR BTTM’s second album Pageant yeseterday (their first for the label), has yet to make a statement, Pageant is no longer listed for sale in their online store, and PWR BTTM’s name has been removed from Polyvinyl’s facebook and twitter bios.

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